COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Giving youth a voice is way to influence policy

Charities must strive to influence the Government's approach to youth issues by promoting a better understanding of the obstacles and challenges that young people face, according to two leading youth organisations.

The Prince's Trust and Centrepoint say charities must give a voice to young people at the margins of society that are demonised by the media and represented as a threat to civil society by the Government's recent anti-social behaviour legislation.

Both charities have launched separate pieces of research that attempt to convey the thoughts, attitudes and concerns of disenfranchised young people who struggle to escape the stereotyping of 'yob culture' in the UK.

"It's really important that we in the voluntary sector do more to use our influence to allow young people's voices and stories to be heard by policy-makers, the media and the general public," said Rob Cope, co-author of the Prince's Trust research titled Reaching The Hardest To Reach.

The study revealed that 92 per cent of all 14-25 year-olds surveyed feel let down by a lack of support services in their local communities. It also highlighted the dire lack of leisure or recreational facilities in disadvantaged areas.

"Current Government policy feeds people's fear of youth crime without allowing us to see them as real people with nowhere else to go," said Cope.

Anthony Lawton, chief executive at Centrepoint, said his organisation's new research highlights the chasm of mistrust that is opening up between disadvantaged young people and the rest of society.

"The fact that young people lack trust is not surprising," he said. "Many see themselves as scapegoats for society's ills rather than part of society, so why would they respect and respond to ideas and initiatives imposed from on high?"

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